Jeremiah responds that Yahweh is against them (Jer 21:3-21:6)

“Then Jeremiah said to them.

‘Thus you shall say

To King Zedekiah.

‘Thus says Yahweh!

The God of Israel!

I am going to turn back

The weapons of war

That are in your hands,

The ones with which you are fighting

Against the king of Babylon,

Against the Chaldeans,

Who are besieging you

Outside the walls.

I will bring them together

Into the midst of this city.

I myself will fight

Against you

With outstretched hand,

With a mighty arm,

In anger,

In fury,

In great wrath.

I will strike down

The inhabitants of this city,

Both human beings

As well as animals.

They shall die of a great pestilence.”

Yahweh’s response to these visitors to Jeremiah is that he is not going to help them. Instead, he was going to take the side of the Babylonians. Jeremiah told them to tell King Zedekiah that Yahweh was going to take their weapons of war from them. The Babylonians and Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem would actually enter the Jerusalem center of the city. Yahweh himself was going to fight against the Israelites with his mighty outstretched hand because he was angry, furious, and filled with a great wrath against them. He was going to strike down all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, both humans and animals, with a deadly pestilence. Their death was near.

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Tracing the coming enemy (Jer 4:15-4:17)

“A voice declares

From Dan.

It proclaims disaster

From Mount Ephraim.

Tell the nations!

‘Here they are!’

Announce to Jerusalem.

‘Besiegers come from a distant land!

They shout against the cities of Judah!

They have closed in around her

Like watchers of a field.”

Jeremiah has a little play by play of how the invading destroyers were coming to Jerusalem. First, they were in the far northern territory of Dan near the Syrian border. Then the second disaster warning comes from Mount Ephraim, just north of Benjamin, in the central area. Finally, they are besieging and surrounding the cities of Judah, the heartland, where Jerusalem is on the border with Benjamin. They were in fields watching as the attack was imminent.

 

The divine intervention at Beth-zur (2 Macc 11:5-11:12)

“Invading Judea, Lysias approached Beth-zur, which was a fortified place about five stadia from Jerusalem. He pressed it hard. When Judas Maccabeus and his men got word that Lysias was besieging the strongholds, they and all the people, with lamentations and tears, prayed the Lord to send a good angel to save Israel. Judas Maccabeus himself was the first to take up arms. He urged the others to risk their lives with him to aid their kindred. Then they eagerly rushed off together. There, while they were still near Jerusalem, a horseman appeared at their head, clothed in white and brandishing weapons of gold. Together they all praised the merciful God. They were strengthened in heart, ready to assail not only humans, but the wildest animals or walls of iron. They advanced in battle order, having their heavenly ally, for the Lord had mercy on them. They hurled themselves like lions against the enemy. They laid low eleven thousand of them and sixteen hundred cavalry. They forced all the rest to flee. Most of them got away stripped and wounded. Lysias himself escaped by disgraceful flight.”

Beth-zur was about 20 miles south of Jerusalem, on the way to Hebron. Here, like 1 Maccabees, chapter 4, Judas Maccabeus prayed for a heavenly angel to help him. Although he had prayed in 1 Maccabees, there was no divine intervention. Here a heavenly horseman with a gold weapon led them to victory as they were lions in battle. Here they killed 11,000 infantry instead of 5,000 as in 1 Maccabees. In both versions of the story, Lysias escaped, either as here in “disgraceful flight” or simply withdrawing to Antioch as in 1 Maccabees.

King Demetrius II and Jonathan disagree (1 Macc 11:20-11:22)

“In those days, Jonathan assembled the Judeans to attack the citadel in Jerusalem. He built many engines of war to use against it. However, certain renegades, who hated their nation, went to the king. They reported to him that Jonathan was besieging the citadel. When the king heard this, he was angry. As soon as he heard it, he set out and came to Ptolemais. He wrote Jonathan not to continue the siege, but to meet him for a conference at Ptolemais as quickly as possible.”

You may wonder, while was the Syrian citadel still in Jerusalem. King Demetrius I had promised to hand it over in the preceding chapter. Apparently, it never happened. In fact, this was another attempt to get independence for Judea. Jonathan besieged the citadel with war machines, or catapults to hurl at the citadel. However, those nasty Jewish renegades showed up again and ran to the new king to tell him what Jonathan was doing. King Demetrius II then sent a letter to Jonathan that he wanted to talk to him in Ptolemais, the former home of the dead King Alexander I. He wanted this matter solved as quickly as possible.